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Artists Jacques Lipchitz
Jacques Lipchitz Photo

Jacques Lipchitz

Cubist sculptor

Movement: Cubism

Born: August 22, 1891 - Druskininkai, Lithuania

Died: May 16, 1973 - Capri, Italy

Jacques Lipchitz Timeline

Quotes

"Abstraction was never enough for me."
Jacques Lipchitz
"All my life as an artist I have asked myself: What pushes me continually to make sculpture? I have found the answer. art is an action against death. It is a denial of death."
Jacques Lipchitz
"I also found so-called great art too pompous, too stiff. What at this time was called minor art was freer, more imaginative, more open to all kinds of unorthodox expression, all kinds of daring in the handling of materials."
Jacques Lipchitz
"For me sculpture is divinity. This is the only answer that I could find for myself. Art is man's distinctly human way of fighting death. Through art, man achieves immortality and in this immortality we find God."
Jacques Lipchitz
"Cubism is not a formula, it is not a school. Cubism is a philosophy, a point of view in the universe. It is like standing at a certain point on a mountain and looking around. If you go higher, things will look different; if you go lower, again they will look different."
Jacques Lipchitz

"Copy nature and you infringe on the work of our Lord. Interpret nature and you are an artist."

Jacques Lipchitz Signature

Synopsis

Lithuanian and Jewish, the refugee artist Jacques Lipchitz arrived in Paris at precisely the right time: when the early-20th-century European avant-garde was shaking up the art world and Cubism was born. When we think of Cubist sculpture, the works of Lipchitz emerge as exemplars of the style translated into three dimensions. Later, the second time Lipchitz fled for his life at the beginning of WWII, he left behind a less abstract style and, in a major career-changing transformation, began producing larger-scale sculptures in bronze. Later still, the work of the ever-dynamic Lipchitz had become increasingly emotionally expressive, often incorporating themes from Judaism. At the end of his long lifetime and multinational trek, Lipchitz may be regarded as one of the foremost contributors to the Cubist style and to modern sculpture.

Key Ideas

Lipchitz and fellow sculptor, Alexander Archipenko, succeeded where Cubist painters had achieved only moderate success - he transformed Cubist themes into sculptural works that display a sense of refinement and cohesion. Of the two artists, the works of Lipchitz were less abstract and rarely incorporated bright colors.
The works that Lipchitz referred to as "transparents" were given that name because they were pierced by abundant negative space. Basically, you could see right through them, or through parts of them. He used this strategy to promote the sculptures' interaction with their surroundings. They were frequently displayed outdoors, so the landscape became an important component of a work.
Lipchitz early, classical training and adept draftsmanship are evident in the emotionally charged, large bronze pieces he began producing later in his career. Themes deriving from Biblical tales and Greek mythology called for a more curvilinear and naturalistic style. Sweeping lines and variations in depth belie the influence of Cubism but the large, dramatic pieces that are made even more powerful by nature of their size as if to evoke the magnitude of the horrors of World War II.

Biography

Jacques Lipchitz Photo

Childhood

Jacques Lipchitz was born Chaim Jacob Lipschitz to a Jewish family in Druskininkai, a small town in the former Russian empire (modern-day Lithuania). His father, Abraham Lipchitz, a building contractor, was rarely home, leaving the rearing of Lipchitz largely to his mother Rachel. In keeping with his father's wishes, Lipchitz began studying engineering. It was thanks to his mother's encouragement, however, that the young Lipchitz at age 17 gave up engineering and moved to Paris in 1908. Although his father was disappointed, Lipchitz later said that "after I went to Paris, my father forgave me and as long as he was able to, he contributed to my support."

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Jacques Lipchitz Biography Continues

Important Art by Jacques Lipchitz

The below artworks are the most important by Jacques Lipchitz - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Pregnant Woman (1912)
Artwork Images

Pregnant Woman (1912)

Artwork description & Analysis: This early work by Lipchitz demonstrates both his traditional artistic training and the incipient signs of his transition away from art school orthodoxy. Lipchitz received a thorough education in traditional sculptural processes, from drawing classical works to mocking up compositions in clay, to creating full plaster models. Most classically trained artists would give their models to a craftsman to carve in stone or cast in bronze. However, Lipchitz' Pregnant Woman remains in its plaster stage and has been treated as a finished work.

Although it is technically skilled, this work is very unlike the classical sculptures Lipchitz would have studied. Instead, it shows the influence of alternative types of sculpture such as medieval pieces or works from the African continent that, at the time, were being brought to Europe and characterized as "primitive". The figure's flat facial features and the unusual position of her arms, along with her designation as a pregnant woman, all point to an anti-classicizing tendency. This is indicative of Lipchitz' increasing regard for the work of contemporaneous, avant-garde artists in Paris who were predominantly interested in works of art from outside the classical canon.

Plaster - Tate Modern, London

Sculpture (1915-16)
Artwork Images

Sculpture (1915-16)

Artwork description & Analysis: One of Lipchitz' earliest abstract sculptures, the composition is based on the form of a human figure seated at a table. He claimed that at the time the sculpture was produced that he was engaged in "building up and composing the idea of a human figure from abstract sculptural elements of line, plane and volume."

Lipchitz presents the human figure as comprised of a variety of planes and surfaces, making use of the space surrounding the sculpture and encouraging the viewer to look at the work from multiple angles. In this way, the artist is rejecting the concept of the ideal viewpoint which is fundamental to classical sculpture.

Lipchitz originally modelled this work in clay before having the final piece executed by a stone carver he employed to assist him. When working on these "abstract architectural" sculptural pieces, Lipchitz insisted that they required the "architectural mass of stone" in order to be fully realized.

Limestone - Tate Modern, London

Seated Man with a Guitar (1921)
Artwork Images

Seated Man with a Guitar (1921)

Artwork description & Analysis: Seated Man with a Guitar is one of Lipchitz' most mature Cubist works. While it is less abstract than earlier works such as Sculpture (1915-16), Lipchitz manages to reduce the human figure into a few distinct shapes while maintaining a degree of naturalism. The simple forms that make up the guitar are integrated with the figure's body, fusing the two as though they are one and the same object. In this way, Lipchitz succinctly conveys the notion of a performance in which the musician and instrument are of equal importance.

Guitars were frequent features of Cubist paintings and sculptures. There are various theories pertaining to exactly why the instrument was so widely depicted by Cubist artists, but it is perhaps partly because the guitar is held so close to the body, integrated and enlivened by it, when it is played. This necessary intimacy between the musical instrument and the musician inspired artists such as Lipchitz to collapse the space between the figure and the object and unify them, which was a key aim of the Cubist movement.

Critic Christopher Green describes how, in order to compose this work, Lipchitz constructed and projected volumes "outwards from an imagined core" in order to achieve an "expansive, outward-oriented occupation of space." This creative use of the space surrounding the sculpture is a key feature of Lipchitz' sculptural work.

Plaster - Kroller-Muller Museum, Amsterdam

More Jacques Lipchitz Artwork and Analysis:

Seated Man (Meditation) (1925) The Cry (The Couple) (1928-29) The Prayer (1943) Prometheus Strangling the Vulture (1943)


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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Jacques Lipchitz
Interactive chart with Jacques Lipchitz's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Alexander ArchipenkoAlexander Archipenko
Juan GrisJuan Gris
Diego RiveraDiego Rivera

Personal Contacts

Amedeo ModiglianiAmedeo Modigliani
Juan GrisJuan Gris

Movements

CubismCubism

Influences on Artist
Jacques Lipchitz
Jacques Lipchitz
Years Worked: 1910s - 1960s
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Henri LaurensHenri Laurens
Umberto BoccioniUmberto Boccioni

Personal Contacts

Movements

Modern SculptureModern Sculpture
CubismCubism

Useful Resources on Jacques Lipchitz

Videos

Books

Websites

Articles

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Jacques Lipchitz: His Sculpture

By A.M. Hammacher

Jacques Lipchitz: The First Cubist Sculptor

By Cathy Putz

Jacques Lipchitz: A Life in Sculpture Recomended resource

By Alan Wilkinson

More Interesting Books about Jacques Lipchitz
The Reach and Grasp of Jacques Lipchitz' Sculpture

By Michael Brenson
New York Times
January 18, 1991

How Jacques Lipchitz Found God

By Dovid Zaklikowski
The Rebbe

A Study in Irony: Modigliani's Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz

By Neal Benezra
The Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection
1986

Lipchitz, an Ocean Away from his Cubist Years

By Grace Glueck
New York Times
March 17, 2000

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